LBC (Life Before Chihuahuas) – Preparing for Your First Chihuahua

LBC (Life Before Chihuahuas) – Preparing for Your First Chihuahua

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Chihuahuas" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: David Anderson

One of the best things about having a longer wait time for your Chihuahua puppy to arrive is that you will have plenty of time to prepare your home for the arrival of your newest family member. The months while you are waiting should be put to good use preparing your home. While it is always a difficult task to puppy-proof a home (just as difficult as baby-proofing), it is an even more laborious task to prepare for a dog as small as a Chihuahua puppy. It will give you a chance to see your home from your puppy’s perspective too.

Two key preparations are your children and other pets. They will need a bit of warning or adjusting prior to the arrival of your little guy. Kids need to be taught to be careful, while other pets will need to get accustomed to changes to your home.

Preparing Your Kids

Chihuahua puppies are about the same size as a child’s toy, so it is understandable if your children try to treat the new pet like a toy. This is why you are going to have to lay down the law and remind your kids about how to properly play with the cute little puppy.

Chihuahuas are not recommended for families with young children, particularly toddlers and kids too young to understand how easy it is to hurt a puppy.

Chihuahua
Photo Courtesy – Ramona Kleespies

Preparing your older child or teenager is fairly easy because they tend to be far more cognizant of how to properly care for a living creature. Regardless of the age of your kids, make sure there is always an adult present when they play with the Chihuahua. It is going to take a while to learn how to be careful and have fun. Playing with the puppy is going to be exciting, and it will be easy even for teenagers to forget their own strength.

The following are the five golden rules that you should make sure your kids understand fully before the puppy arrives.

  1. Always be gentle. Those little Chihuahuas are absolutely adorable, but they are also fairly fragile, despite their sturdy appearance. At no time should anyone play rough with the puppy (or any adult Chihuahua).

This rule must be applied consistently every time your children play with the puppy. Be firm if you see your children getting too excited or rough. You don’t want the puppy to get overly excited either, because puppies may end up nipping or biting. It isn’t their fault because they haven’t learned better yet – it is the child’s fault. Make sure your child understands the possible repercussions if they get too rough.

  1. Chase is an outside game. It can be easy for children to forget as they start to play and everyone gets excited. That short game of getting away can quickly devolve into chase, so you will need to make sure your children understand not to start running. Once they get outside, chase is perfectly fine (although you will still need to monitor the play time).
  2. Running inside the home is dangerous for two primary reasons. It gives your Chihuahua puppy the impression that your home isn’t safe inside because he is being chased, or worse, he gets hurt. Or your puppy will learn that running inside is fine, which can be dangerous as he gets older. One of the last things you want is for your Chihuahua to go barreling through your home knocking people off their feet because that behavior was fine for him to do that when he was a puppy.
  3. Always leave the puppy alone during meal time. This is true whenever your puppy is eating (this can apply to when your kids are eating as well since you don’t want your Chihuahua to get accustomed to eating people food while your kids are eating). You don’t want your Chihuahua to think that anyone is trying to take the food away from him. Chihuahuas aren’t typically aggressive, so it isn’t likely he will nip or bite because someone is near his food. However, he can feel insecure about eating if he feels like someone may take his food, which is obviously not fair to your Chihuahua. And older Chihuahuas could be a bit more protective of their food, which could lead to some conflicts. Save yourself, your family, and your Chihuahua trouble by making sure everyone knows that eating time is your Chihuahua’s time alone.
  4. The Chihuahua should always remain firmly on the ground. This is something that will likely require a good bit of explaining to your children as Chihuahuas look a lot like toys, especially Chihuahua puppies. No one should be picking the puppy up off the ground. You may want to carry your new family member around or play with the pup like he is a baby, but you and your family will need to resist that urge. Kids particularly have trouble understanding since they will see the Chihuahua as being more like a toy than a living creature. The younger your children are, the more difficult it will be for them to understand the difference. It is so tempting to treat the Chihuahua like a baby and to try to carry him like one, but this is incredibly uncomfortable and unhealthy for the canine. Older kids will quickly learn that a puppy nip or bite hurts a lot more than you would think. Those little teeth are incredibly sharp, and you do not want the puppy to be dropped. If your children learn never to pick up the puppy, things will go a lot better. Remember, this also applies to you, so don’t make things difficult by doing something you constantly tell your children not to do.
  5. All of your valuables should be well out of reach of your children, even your teens. This is about your kids, and not the puppy, being able to reach items. Valuables are not something you want to end up in the puppy’s mouth, but that is almost guaranteed to happen if you leave jewelry where someone can easily pick it up. Teenagers are just as likely to grab whatever is within easy reach to play with as the puppy is, so they are nearly as much of a threat to your valuables as tweens and kids who are older than toddlers. If your kids get curious, they are not likely to stop to consider if they should be doing something because they want to know what will happen if they use something while playing with the puppy. The end result will be an incident that will certainly not make you or your children happy when you get upset with them. If you don’t want your puppy or children to destroy something valuable, make sure it is never easily accessible.

Preparing Your Current Dogs

The approach to preparing other dogs is considerably different than preparing a kid for a puppy’s arrival. To start with, they aren’t going to understand rules. What they do understand are boundaries. They may not understand that there is a puppy coming into the home, but they can definitely understand what it means when you fence off areas of the home. Start with teaching your children, turning your attention to preparing your dogs as your children digest the information (and have it reinforced). Your primary method of preparing your dog or dogs for the arrival of a puppy is to have an area where they know they should not go and to help them understand that you still love them. You should start adjusting your schedule well ahead of the arrival of the puppy, building specific time slots for interacting with your dogs so that they don’t start to feel resentful of the puppy.

Here are the things you can do to help ease the transition to having a new Chihuahua around the home.

Chihuahua
Photo Courtesy – Katie Plant

Think about your dog’s personality to help you decide the best way to prepare for that first day, week, and month. Each dog is unique, so you will need to consider your dog’s personality to determine how things will go when the new dog arrives. If your dog loves other dogs, this will probably hold true when the puppy shows up. If your dog has any territorial tendencies, you will need to be cautious about the introduction and during the first couple of months so that your current dog learns that the Chihuahua is now a part of the pack. Excitable dogs will need special attention to keep them from getting overly rambunctious when a new dog comes home. You don’t want them to be so excited they accidentally hurt the new puppy.

Consider other times when you have had other dogs in your home and how your dog reacted to these other furry visitors. If your canine displayed territorial tendencies, you are going to need to be extra careful with how you introduce your new pup. If you haven’t ever invited another dog to your home, schedule a couple of play dates with other dogs at your home before your new Chihuahua arrives. You have to know how your current furry companions will react to a new puppy in the house so you can properly prepare. Meeting a dog at home is very different from encountering one outside the home.

Think about your dog’s interactions with other dogs for as long as you have known the dog. Has your dog shown protective or possessive behavior, either with you or others? Food is one of the reasons that most dogs will display some kind of aggression because they don’t want anyone trying to eat what is theirs. Some dogs can be protective of people and toys too.

It is important to establish the puppy’s area well ahead of the puppy’s arrival too. Your dogs need to learn that there is a place in the home where they can’t go so that they aren’t losing space around the time the puppy comes home. If they are acclimated to the lost space, they may exhibit interest in the puppy, but aren’t likely to feel too inclined to go into the area that has been prohibited for some time.

To ensure that your dog doesn’t have any reason to want to go into the area, make sure that it doesn’t include any of his stuff. All of his toys, furniture, and other items should be in a different space. If he has a favorite seat or couch, the puppy’s area should be separate from it – you don’t want to take away your dog’s favorite spots and resting places, because that will build negative emotions. The puppy should be an addition to the family, and not make the dog feel like he has been replaced.

Make sure your children understand that they are not to throw the older dog’s toys and other things into the puppy’s area. They also need to understand that the dog cannot go into the area, so they should avoid trying to play with the dog in the space that will be the puppy’s living area.

Go ahead and start considering neutral ground where the puppy can meet your other canine or canines. This should not be done in the territory of your dog because he is more likely to feel like the puppy is invading his territory (depending on your dog’s personality). Even for mellow dogs, neutral grounds are recommended; somewhere that he won’t feel is his place where other dogs shouldn’t be. Plan to have at least one other adult present at the time of the initial meeting too.

Dangerous Foods

Dogs cannot eat the same foods as humans. Just as a dog can safely eat raw meat that would make a person sick (or kill them), there are foods that humans can eat that can seriously hurt a dog. Chihuahuas are particularly at risk because of their size. It will not take much of these dangerous foods to kill a Chihuahua.

You are probably aware that your dogs should not eat chocolate, but there are many other foods that will give a dog’s digestive track trouble and foods that are toxic to a dog. These foods should never be given to a dog of any size, but even small quantities of any one of these items could be lethal to a Chihuahua.

The following are foods that are on the Do Not Eat list for dogs.

  • Apple seeds
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Cooked bones (they can kill a dog when the bones splinter in the dog’s mouth or stomach)
  • Corn on the cob (it is the cob that is deadly to dogs; corn off the cob is fine, but you need to make sure that your Chihuahua cannot reach any corn that is still on the cob)
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions and chives
  • Peaches, persimmons, and plums
  • Tobacco (your Chihuahua will not know that it is not a food and may eat it if it is left out)
  • Xylitol (a sugar substitute in candies, baked goods, and some peanut butters)
  • Yeast

In addition to these potentially deadly foods, there is a long list of other things that your dog shouldn’t eat for health reasons. The Canine Journal has a lengthy list of foods that should be avoided. It includes foods like alcohol and other substances that people give dogs, thinking that it is funny. Remember that dogs have a very different metabolism and the effect that these foods have on them is much stronger than the effect they have on people.

For the sake of your Chihuahua’s health, it is best just to keep all of these foods out of reach, even if the items are non-lethal.

Hazards to Fix

Preparing your home for a puppy is as time consuming as it is for a baby. Plan to spend at least a few months (if not more) to get your home ready. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start preparing your home around the time you start looking for a breeder because there are going to be a lot of things to do for the arrival of such a small dog. The extra effort you put into preparing your home will be well worth it, as you will give your little Chihuahua a safe place, teaching him that the big world isn’t something to fear.

This section details the areas of the home where you should really focus your attention to make sure you don’t miss anything important that could be dangerous for your little darling.

Also, be aware that all puppies, including Chihuahuas, will try to eat virtually anything, even if it isn’t food. Nothing is safe – not even your furniture. Puppies will gnaw on wood and metal. Anything within their reach is fair game. Keep this in mind as you go about puppy-proofing your home.

Kitchen and Eating Areas

Easily the most dangerous room in the house, the kitchen is a combination of poisonous foods, dangerous items, and poisons. It is the room where you should probably plan to spend most of your time when puppy-proofing your home. Everything you would do to protect a small child in this room is something you will need to do for a Chihuahua. This could include making sure the cabinets are locked in case your Chihuahua is clever enough to figure out how to open them. He is going to be following you around like a little shadow once he is allowed out of his puppy area, and he will be learning that things open. Some of them are clever enough to be able to get into cabinets, especially the cabinets where you do not want them to go.

You will need to make sure that all poisons are put in places where your Chihuahua cannot reach them (whether in the kitchen, in other rooms of the house, the garage, and all outdoor areas). Chihuahuas can get into nearly everything, and your little friend will be exploring a lot when given the opportunity. Anything that may catch your attention or draw your interest is worth a try – that’s what centuries have taught them. Being vigilant about making sure he can’t hurt himself is vital to keeping your Chihuahua safe. At no time should you leave poisons in an unsecured place.

Trash cans are equally dangerous because that’s where all kinds of great smells exist to lure your Chihuahua to misbehave. Having just gone over the list of foods that they shouldn’t eat, leaving any of these foods in the trash is a serious risk to a Chihuahua puppy. There are also things like poisons, plastics, and other items your puppy may think should be taste tested. Just because your Chihuahua is small does not mean that it is impossible for him to knock over a trash can. Take all of the necessary precautions, such as getting a trash can you can lock or storing it under a cabinet that is locked. This will keep your puppy from getting into too much trouble or creating a mess for you to clean up.

All electrical cords need to be up and out of reach of little Chihuahua puppies that could be curious as to what cords are and how they work. You don’t want the puppy to trip or get tangled in a cord any more than you want your puppy to try to eat the cord. Then there are things like blender cords and other wires that connect to heavier items that you don’t want pulled onto your puppy. Cords aren’t just electrical either – if you have long cords for your blinds, these need to be shortened or put where they will not fall to the floor where your Chihuahua can reach them.

Bathroom and Laundry

The dangers in the bathroom are almost the same as for those in the kitchen, just in a smaller space. There are so many poisons in bathrooms that keeping the doors closed could be the best way to go. Since that is really not an option for many families (particularly if you have children or teenagers who are likely to forget), you need to make sure to keep everything that could attract attention and danger locked up or out of reach.

Do keep the toilet seat closed, and don’t use any automatic cleaners. Some Chihuahuas have been clever enough to learn how to drink out of toilets, which means it is up to you to keep the toilets inaccessible to your curious pup. If the toilet seat is left open (as is bound to happen occasionally), make sure there aren’t any poisons in it by avoiding having any automatic cleaners in the water.

Though it doesn’t at first seem likely, the laundry room can actually be a dangerous room as well. The easiest way to deal with it is to keep the door shut if you can. Many families keep a number of miscellaneous items (including poisons) in the laundry room because it is kind of a catch-all place. You may only have bleach, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and other clothing cleaners, but even those can be very dangerous to a Chihuahua. This is particularly true of items like laundry pods. You also need to keep all dirty clothing off of the floor – if for no other reason than to keep your Chihuahua puppy from dragging the most embarrassing garments all around your home. There is also a chance that your Chihuahua may try to eat some of the clothing, which would not be great for your Chihuahua. Nor is it a great time for you if you have to take an emergency trip to the vet’s office or animal hospital.

Other Rooms

Most of the other rooms of the house should be relatively safe since people don’t tend to keep chemicals outside of cabinets.

You will need to do a thorough inspection for cords that are low to the ground or within jumping distance of your Chihuahua’s reach. All of these will need to be secured well above where your Chihuahua can reach. Don’t forget about spaces like the computer area and entertainment center where there is typically a lot of wiring. You will also need to check the window cords to make sure they are too high for your puppy to reach.

All cleaning products need to be stored some place that your puppy cannot go, too. If you keep objects like air fresheners on surfaces, make sure that these areas are not places where your Chihuahua can go. Since most Chihuahuas are allowed on couches and beds, you will need to clear off end tables and nightstands – and anything that contains chemicals and is accessible from the furniture.

If you have a fireplace, all cleaning supplies and tools will need to be stored in a place where the puppy cannot get into them. The area where the fire is also needs to be made inaccessible to curious puppies. This needs to be true all of the time so that your puppy does not play in the ashes or with the wiring in the fireplace.

If you have stairs in your home, they will need to be cordoned off so that your puppy cannot try to go up or down them. Tables (including end tables and coffee tables) need to be cleared of dangerous objects, such as scissors, sewing equipment, pens, and pencils. All valuables should be kept in safe locations away from furniture where your puppy will go.

If you have a cat, you are going to need to keep the litter box up off of the floor. It needs to be somewhere that your cat can easily get to but your Chihuahua cannot. Since this could include teaching your cat to use the new area, it is something you should do well in advance of the puppy’s arrival. You don’t want your cat to be undergoing too many significant changes all at once. The puppy will be enough of a disruption – if your cat associates the litter box change with the puppy, you may find your cat protesting the change by refusing to use the litter box.

Garage

The best way to deal with the garage is to make sure your Chihuahua cannot go into it. There are so many dangerous things in garages that keeping all puppies out is the best policy. However, given their size, it is certain that the little Chihuahua will manage to slip into the garage when you don’t expect it. With all of the chemicals, sharp implements, and other dangerous tools that are stored there, the garage is one of the most hazardous places in any home. Never leave your Chihuahua alone in the garage, even when it is an adult. It is likely that your puppy will be in the garage when you take car trips, which is why it is important to puppy-proof it.

All items related to your car and its maintenance have to be stowed high off the ground where your puppy cannot go, and a locked area is the safest way to store it. This includes all lubricants, oils, and cleaners, as well as wrenches and tools. You will need to do the same for all of your lawn maintenance items, bike tools, and anything used for heavy machinery or that includes chemicals.

Puppies will chew anything, including tires, cans, tools, and bags. Everything that can be placed up high or locked in a cabinet should be.

You will need to do this with all of your hobbies too. Things like fishing tackle are incredibly dangerous and should be stored somewhere out of reach, too. You will need to make sure there is nothing hanging over the countertops where the puppy can try to pull it down.

The best way to deal with the problem is to enter the garage from a toddler’s perspective. Anything that you would immediately move for a toddler should be moved for your puppy. Get down low and see the garage from your puppy’s perspective. If you keep your cars in the garage, you can move them out to get a better view. Move anything that could be a potential danger.

Outdoors and Fencing

While you should definitely make the backyard safe, you should never send your Chihuahua out alone. You will always need to stay very close to your dog to protect him.

Chihuahua
Photo Courtesy – Karen Moore

Some breeders suggest adding another layer of protection for your dog. Since birds can be remarkably fast, you can purchase netting for an area of your yard where your Chihuahua will do activities like go to the bathroom. Since this breed is the same size as a cat (and puppies are even smaller than that), you should not have your Chihuahua puppy outside without a leash. If you want your Chihuahua to learn to use the bathroom outside, have a small fenced in area with a net over it that predators cannot get through. All it takes is for you to turn your back for a moment, and a bird of prey can take off with your Chihuahua. Netting will make it difficult for birds and other predators (including other dogs, large cats, and raccoons) to enter the area and take off with your Chihuahua.

Go over your yard the same way you did the garage, making sure there are no chemicals or dangerous items that can hurt your puppy. If your puppy manages to get out of the safe area, the items in your yard are as hazardous as any predators, and are a much more constant danger. Make sure chemicals, tools, and other items are stored where your puppy cannot get to them. Any hanging material on outside tables or items should be removed or shortened. Check that there aren’t any gaps or problems with the fencing that your puppy could wiggle through if he gets out of the safe area. You also need to make sure there aren’t any potentially dangerous plants that your puppy might munch on. There is a lot to do outside, but typically less than you have to do inside. Remember, you should always be outside with your Chihuahua keeping an eye on the puppy or adult, even in secure areas, because he is more than capable of escaping through the smallest holes and gaps. A watchful eye will keep him safe, and it is much easier than dealing with the curiosity of a cat. The Chihuahua will be happy to romp outside for a bit, but will be just as content to go out, go to the restroom, and get back inside.

Supplies and Tools to Purchase and Prepare

Planning for your puppy’s arrival means buying a lot of supplies up front. You will need a wide range of items. If you start making purchases around the time you identify the breeder, you can stretch out your expenses over a longer period of time. This will make it seem a lot less expensive than it actually is, though it is much cheaper than what is needed for most other breeds. The following are recommended items:

  • Playpen (optional)
  • Crate
  • Bed
  • Leash
  • Doggy bags for walks
  • Collar
  • Tags
  • Puppy food
  • Water and food bowls (sharing a water bowl is usually okay, but your puppy needs his or her own food dish if you have multiple dogs)
  • Toothbrush (very important for this breed, and you may want to buy a couple)
  • Brush
  • Toys

For training treats, you actually have it very easy. Instead of buying the more expensive treats, Cheerios are just as effective and much cheaper. One little piece of cereal for listening is all it takes, and your Chihuahua is not likely to get tired of eating them since this is not a breed that is particularly picky about food.

If there is anything else you want, feel free to add it to the list.

Health care items like flea treatments can be purchased, but they are expensive and you won’t need them for a while. Puppies should not be treated until they reach a specified age.

Planning the First Year’s Budget

The costs for having a puppy is a lot more than you would think, but it’s still less expensive to bring in a puppy than a new infant. You will need to have a budget, which is another reason to start purchasing supplies a few months in advance. When you buy the items you need, you will begin to see exactly how much you will spend a month. Of course there are some items that are one-time purchases, such as the crate, but many other items you will need to purchase regularly, like food and treats.

Chihuahua
Photo Courtesy – Stephanie Lucas

You also need to have a budget for the one-time purchases too. This means doing some research ahead of time for those purchases. It is almost guaranteed that you are going to overspend, but you will want to stick to the budget as much as possible.

Begin budgeting the day you decide to get your puppy. Be sure to include the adoption cost, which is typically higher for a purebred dog than for a rescue. If you want to rescue a Chihuahua, decide where you want to find your newest family member. Plan to spend a lot of time researching costs for bringing your puppy or adult dog home, as well as the other costs.

The vet and other healthcare costs should be included in your budget. Regular vaccinations are required, and an annual checkup should be included in the budget. Vet prices vary a lot between different states, even between cities, making it difficult to average the cost. It is always worth the cost, but you will want to know what it will be before your puppy arrives.

If you want to join a Chihuahua organization, budget for the activities. There are a lot of things you can do with Chihuahuas if you want to be with other puppy parents. Fortunately, this is not necessary because Chihuahuas love to lounge at home and don’t require much time outside of the home to be perfectly content.

Keep Things Out of Reach

This is fairly easy as your Chihuahua is too small to reach much of anything. Keep in mind that your dog can still jump, so you will need to learn to keep items that your canine might want to chew in locations where your dog cannot reach them, even if they jump up. If you have tablecloths, your Chihuahua could pull them, so you will want to use shorter cloths so that your Chihuahua cannot reach them. This is safer both for your dog and the stuff you keep on your tables. Don’t forget that this is true for any table. Linda Jangula of Chihuahuas Wee Love warns about the trouble your Chihuahua could potentially get into: “Drapes, tablecloths, anything hanging within their reach makes for lots of fun, so beware of their smart, cunning abilities.” Pulling these things down is not only messy, but potentially dangerous as any heavy or metal objects can seriously injure or kill your puppy.

The Puppy Area

Chihuahuas are a bit different than other dogs because they require so little space to be comfortable. While most puppies will need to have a fenced off area, Chihuahuas can get by in a space the size of – or in an actual – playpen. As Jeanne Eubanks of Uey’s Chihuahuas puts it, “A fenced in playpen with everything they need in the playpen is perfect.”

By getting a playpen for your pup, you will be minimizing on encroaching on space for other pets while making it difficult for the puppy to get out. You can also fence off a small area for your puppy, an area roughly the size of a playpen, but make sure that children and dogs understand long before the puppy arrives that they cannot knock the fencing down.

You can also get gates and block off a small area for your puppy. Do make sure that it is sturdy enough to withstand children or other dogs knocking it over. Give it a test from both sides. Just because Chihuahuas are not big does not mean they cannot knock gates down if they set their mind to it. Since they are small, you need to make sure that the gaps are much smaller so that they cannot squeeze their heads through only to be stuck. One of the last things you want is a Chihuahua puppy stuck in the fence or running around with a gate attached to it.

Chihuahuas are going to be right there with you wherever you go, but their size means that they aren’t able to reach many areas. It is very important to keep a lot of things out of their reach, especially food and items that they can reach from the couch or bed. They can knock things over, like plants and decorations when you are away and that can be very dangerous. Chihuahuas can have anxiety issues, and they may knock things over while trying to look out of windows in an effort to see you. You will need to spend time puppy proofing your home so that your little guy does not get hurt or chew on things of value or that are special to you. You won’t be able to do anything about table and chair legs until your Chihuahua has learned not to chew on furniture, so keep the little fellow in a penned in area. This will be safer for your dog and your furniture.

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